Following Happy

Chief of Staff, COO and alumna, Mads Hallett ('14) shares how she follows what makes her happy and how it has led her to work with companies such as Uber and #4 LinkedIn top startup, Mr Yum.

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Can you explain your career journey to date?

My career journey has not been a straight line – they never are! Hospitality is my first love, which meant I was running coffees at my local cafe from year 9, and loved jobs in restaurants and bars in high school and uni. Lesson #1 – never underestimate the skills and networks that come from these roles!

Hungry to get started in business, I joined Forethought Research in a ‘Project Support’ role 3 days a week, where I learned how to work in an office doing everything from manning reception to preparing client reports. My time at Forethought dovetailed into an intern position at Uber, after meeting the Melbourne team at a Commerce Students’ Society networking event. 

Uber supported me to work full time during my final two years of study, in an APAC Marketing role that took me to Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, and many, many trips to Sydney. Soon as I graduated, I was on a plane to San Francisco to take a Global Social Media Strategist role. It was a privilege to have the chance to apply these skills in a Marketing Operations role in New York City, too. 

COVID brought me home to Australia, where I was stoked to be introduced to Kim Teo, the CEO at Mr Yum. Again, it was a jump into the unknown taking a role at a Melbourne startup, but an amazing opportunity to have led marketing for a year now. Every jump is scary, but so far can attest that it’s always worth following your gut and jumping right in!

How did Strathcona prepare you for your chosen career?

Strathcona gave me the opportunity to nurture my interest in business and economics and understand the importance of rounding out your skills. As one example, the program to do a university subject in Year 12 showed me that things do not have to happen in perfect succession and it’s possible to balance overlap between work, study, and school.

Also, non-compulsory weekend sports meant I had the weekend time available to work in hospitality and build my skills!

What did you study?

Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne. I majored in Marketing and Management. The initial plan was to major in Economics but I found university Economics really different from school Ecoomics and didn’t enjoy that amount of calculus!

Who was the major influence on your career path?

Is it cliche to say my Mum?! Mum has definitely had the biggest influence – helping me hone my negotiation and communication skills, and always back myself to trust my gut and give it a go. 

Work-wise though, my first manager at Uber, Ryan, was a mentor/sponsor/champion from day one and we worked together brilliantly. He helped open doors then move out of the way to let me perform! 

When did you decide that this is what you wanted to do?

I don’t think you ever decide. Careers aren’t fixed so I think it’s important not to look out for this moment when you have ‘made it’. The only thing I know for sure is that “what I want to do” is something that is in and around the hospitality and food industry – it makes me happy, so it’s the strongest signal I have that I am in the right place.

What are your career highlights?

The biggest highs have been travelling on a global team. It’s always high stress to lead a meeting or pitch an idea after a red-eye flight, but the adrenaline of being on the move and achieving what you went there for is so exciting. 

One specific highlight was securing the role in San Francisco and getting a prized US visa after six rounds of interviews and many daunting steps at 22 years old. More recently, contributing to Mr Yum being named as the #4 top startup in Australia was a really proud moment. 

What day-to-day thing do you enjoy about your job?

Working with my team. Even when working remotely, a quick phone call or zoom about one of the team’s projects is always exciting. Enjoying work really comes down to the people you choose to spend 40, 50, 60 hours of the week with.

What core attributes do you need for your chosen career?

Curiosity, prioritisation skills, great verbal and written communication, and an interest in economics and why people do what they do.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start in your industry?

Take the job. Send the out-of-the-blue LinkedIn message.

Final Note

Be kind to yourself. Life throws us all kinds of stressors and forks in the road. You’re doing a good job!